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Book: The Relational Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacralization

Chapter: 3. Enchantment, Matter and the Unpredictability of Devotion

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.30126


Both ‘enchantment’ (as concept and experience) and ‘material religion’ (as concept and practical evidence) are currently receiving academic attention. Combining these two fields of enquiry the ‘materiality of enchantment’ (as distinct from the ‘enchantment of materiality’) can be more clearly understood through that which takes place in moments of devotional encounter with religious statues. Relational in nature, ‘enchantment’ conceptually provides a framework which reflects a quality of encounter that expresses the intimate relationships that people have with religious statues when they are both in situ in shrines and temples, as well as on the move during processions. Consequently, theories of ‘enchantment’ are informed by such encounters with religious materiality. Using a contemporary, vernacular form of Catholic Marian Andalusian statue devotion, the chapter builds on the work of Curry (2012), Harvey (2005), Ingold (2011) and Scott (2006) (among others) to test the ‘dynamics’ of enchantment. Since the dynamics of enchantment cannot be tested without some orientation toward the project of modernity, the chapter will also argue that ‘enchantment’ provides a theoretically fluid middle ground to still productive dualisms that inform Western cultural discourses. Thus this chapter will bring ‘enchantment’, ‘material religion’, and ‘the new animism’ (as well as the ‘fetish’) into dialogue with contemporary Catholic statue devotion to argue that enchantment is an unpredictable and relational ‘happening’ that takes place in moments of encounter, here exemplified through encounters with religious statues.

Chapter Contributors

  • Amy Whitehead ( - amywhitehead) 'The University of Wales Trinity Saint David'